FAO of UN - Annual Review

7. Advice to government

African farmers profit from improved animal production systems

At the celebration of World Food Day in Benin, 44 farmers received Snail Farmer Certificates. Festivities at the event included tasting giant snails of the Achatina achatina species . When these snails, which are highly appreciated in West Africa, were near extinction, an agreement was reached between the government of Benin and FAO to conduct a snail raising programme. The farmers recruited for initial trials - among them eight women - worked with a team of researchers and extension staff to learn techniques for snail management, housing, feeding and processing. By the end of the project in 1994, the farmers are expected to be providing 8 000 processed snails weekly.

The snail raising programme is one of several FAO projects designed to improve local animal production systems. In a similar endeavour, an ostrich production and marketing specialist helped the Government of Namibia to assess domestic and export market potential and constraints for ostriches and their products.

The ostrich production industry in Namibia, though young, is expanding rapidly. Demand for ostrich skin, meat, feathers and hatching eggs is also growing on the world market. All of these products command attractive prices. Ostrich leather has a high-quality, exotic look while the highly palatable meat is low in cholesterol and fat.

The Republic of South Africa produces most of the ostrich products on the world market today, but Namibia is potentially the next largest producer. Expansion of ostrich production and marketing will help to fill the gap created by a decline of the country's Karakul sheep industry coupled with a decade of inadequate rainfall.

In Uganda, another FAO technical cooperation project is training field staff in the use of draught animals to help lighten the workload of smallholder families, in particular that of women. It is estimated that under traditional cropping management systems, women provide about 75 percent of a family's input of manual labour to transport, ploughing and weeding.

By the end of 1993, 20 trainees - among them three women - had completed the course and returned to their respective districts to train farmers in the technology. Expected collateral gains include expanded cropping areas and a reduction in losses as a result of more timely agricultural operations.

Victims of food insecurity: identifying vulnerable groups

In Tanzania, recent studies identified rural households and wage earners below the absolute poverty line, food growers in drought- and flood-prone pockets, and in particular toddlers and pregnant women as the principal victims of food insecurity. One of the major causes of child illness and malnutrition: women's heavy workload forces them to cut down on meal preparation. Other factors that contribute to making certain groups more vulnerable than others include remoteness from essential public services and lack of income-generating opportunities.

The assessment of food insecurity in Tanzania was part of a project sponsored by FAO's Food Security Assistance Scheme (FSAS) to help member countries formulate comprehensive food security programmes. FAO started by conducting pilot programmes in national programming in Chad, the Niger, Tanzania and Zambia. In 1993, the experience gained in the pilot programmes was applied in Benin, Bhutan, Viet Nam and ten Latin American and Caribbean countries. Regional groups in Latin America and Africa also received support in food security programming.

A fundamental aspect of the FSAS methodology is the use of national multidisciplinary teams of experts in programme planning and implementation. This approach contributes to accurate diagnosis of problems, realistic formulation of solutions, capacity building at the national level and anchoring of the programmes within the national institutional framework.

With food insecurity, as with many ailments, proper diagnosis is a fundamental part of the cure. This is especially true in the light of the growing realization that food security is as much a question of household access to food as it is of overall food availability. FAO is developing, at national and subregional levels, an Aggregate Household Food Security Index. The conceptual basis for the Index was approved by the FAO Council in 1993. Once fully developed, it will serve as a tool to help monitor trends worldwide.These children in Bhutan may be among the victims of food insecurity. FAO is helping the government to identify vulnerable groups and design an effective programme to address their needs

In brief

Global experts in consumer affairs representing industry, international consumer organizations and food control agencies met at FAO headquarters in June 1993 to discuss consumer interests in food control policy and decision-making. Among the topics covered were creation of focal points for consumer affairs within food control agencies, consumer participation on advisory boards and establishing consumer education programmes. A report on the meeting was published to assist developing countries in setting up consumer affairs programmes.

An FAO Field Programme Development mission to the agricultural sector in Jordan identified priority areas requiring technical assistance from the international donor community. The mission developed 43 project proposals for enhancing agricultural development in the country and recommended a policy framework for development in each subsector. By the end of 1993, eight project proposals had been selected by interested donors for financing.

In the continuing follow-up to the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) , FAO helped over 40 countries prepare national plans of action for nutrition. The 150 nations that participated in ICN committed themselves to developing plans with attainable goals and measurable targets. To support the process, the document Guidelines for developing national plans of action for nutrition was distributed to member governments. To increase knowledge among policy-makers of the potential of non-wood forestry products - and the urgent need to develop them - FAO published More than wood: special options on multiple use of forests. The booklet presents examples of the beneficial use of non-wood forest products and proposes a strategy for promoting their development. A wide variety of products is covered including foods, medicines, materials for handicrafts, spices, resins, gums, latexes and wildlife.

Two seminars on Food and Agricultural Policy Analysis were held in Pakistan, in May and September of 1993. The principal aim of these interactive training seminars was to improve technical and analytical capabilities in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives as well as in the ministries dealing with the agricultural sector at the provincial level.

To aid in forestry policy formulation and planning , two papers were published in 1993: Forestry policies in the Near East Region, and Forestry policies in selected countries of Asia and the Pacific. The papers resulted from regional forestry policy reviews carried out between 1990 and 1992.

Channelling funds for sound development

In the Governorate of Kairouan - one of Tunisia's poorest regions where farmers' very small holdings are threatened by soil degradation and water erosion - FAO's Investment Centre has helped developed a US$28 million project to promote soil conservation, range rehabilitation and water-saving technologies. The project will help local communities intensify production of cereals, fruit and fodder while establishing women's groups, designing community development projects, promoting income-generating activities and providing basic infrastructure for development.

In 1993, FAO's Investment Centre focused its preparation of projects such as this one on two fundamental concerns: promoting sustainable activities for land management, forestry development and environmental protection; and alleviating rural poverty. During the year, 32 projects prepared with the assistance of the Investment Centre were approved for funding, representing a total investment of US$2 476 million. In addition, 44 projects were presented for consideration by financing agencies and 67 more were at various stages of formulation.

In Guinea, one of the projects submitted to the World Bank for assessment will help 300 villages in forest areas and 102 coastal villages manage their lands more effectively. It will include agroforestry and aquaculture initiatives, improvement of cultural practices and pastures, water management, livestock development and expansion of socio-economic infrastructure.

The capacity to evaluate development priorities and projects, linking these with adequate funding, is crucial to sound, sustainable advances in agriculture. Such capabilities, however, are often lacking in the developing countries where the need for support is greatest. During project identification, the FAO Investment Centre works closely with national staff to promote self-sufficiency and complement local expertise.

The first phase of a project in the Niger was recently launched to halt degradation and restore renewable natural resources. Management plans will be drawn up and implemented in coordination with farmers from 256 villages. The project will contain components for institutional strengthening, environmental and sociological monitoring, training, technical assistance and research development.

Rural poverty alleviation is especially important in projects formulated in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In China, five agricultural development projects with a total investment of US$234 million are being supported by IFAD. The most recent of these is in the Simao Prefecture where about two-thirds of the population are ethnic minorities living in extreme poverty.

Informed pesticide use for a healthier environment

In 1993, FAO completed a successful project funded by the Japanese Government to help 13 countries in the Caribbean establish simple but effective national pesticide regulation and control schemes. Part of a global programme to implement the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, this project followed through on a previous endeavour covering 27 countries in Asia and the Pacific.

The International Code of Conduct was developed in 1985 and adopted by all of FAO's member countries. Now in its full implementation phase, the Code informs and supports governments in their decisions on pesticide use. By providing a framework for the regulation and control of pesticides, the Code helps countries to achieve sounder, more sustainable agricultural programmes. The Code was amended in 1989 to include a clause for Prior Informed Consent (PIC). The PIC clause establishes a mechanism for information exchange, enabling importing countries to decide whether they want to receive pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted because of threats to human health or the environment. The number of Designated National Authorities serving as focal points for application of the PIC increased in 1993 from 155 to 158, representing 118 countries.

In South America, five countries were assisted in implementing the most advanced contribution the Code can offer: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay set up intercountry standards and requirements to harmonize regulatory procedures for the registration and control of pesticides. Through networks for exchange and evaluation of information, the five countries will strengthen their decision-making capabilities, particularly in the newly liberalized context of free trade. In addition to these activities for the direct application of the Code, a four-week course and concluding seminar in Bolivia explored the relevance of the Code of Conduct with respect to postharvest schemes. Disposal of obsolete stocks of pesticides in developing countries is another pressing issue; several projects were developed to deal with this problem.

Last Update: 8 June 1995

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